Chief Digital Officer Becomes A Compelling Career Path

Millennial boss leading corporate team during briefing in boardroom

Is chief digital officer a career path worth pursuing? What can they accomplish that isn’t already covered by chief information or technology officers? Will this be a position around a decade from now?

A recent survey of 323 managers and professionals working under CDOs, released by Mindtree, asserts that the presence of these executives is more than a fleeting trend. Contrary to impressions that the CDO role is an ambiguous one, there are hardcore business tasks being carved out for these executives. It’s also notable that most of the respondents working under CDOs, 58%, were in a business function outside of IT.

The survey found today’s business and IT professionals see a clear need for the continuance of the CDO position, with 74% of respondents stating that their organization’s CDO has clearly defined responsibilities and 81% agreeing that these responsibilities are differentiated enough that a dedicated CDO position is needed.

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Managers and professionals feel their CDOs are having real and measurable impacts on their organizations in the drive to achieving digital transformation and delivering a customer benefit. A majority, 82%, agree that their companies have “made significant progress achieving digital transformation and becoming more customer-oriented.”

What are the primary roles of this emerging job category? The CDO has been most successful leading initiatives to provide a more enjoyable digital experience for customers, and less successful in changing their organization’s culture, the survey shows. When asked for the single-most successful aspect of the role to date, “the CDO has been effective championing many business-driving digital initiatives, such as giving customers the seamless digital experience they want.”

Where CDOs Are Having The Greatest Impact:

  • Making the digital experience more enjoyable/usable 27%
  • Creating or transforming business models 20%
  • Modernizing core enterprise systems 17%
  • Decentralizing the IT organization/ democratizing technology 17%
  • Changing the culture to iterate/move faster 11%

Needless to say, in terms of skills, CDOs need to have a keen understanding of the power of technology, and how to make it perform within enterprises. Along with that, leadership and management skills come into play, as CDOs need to bring together people and resources from across the enterprise and help achieve not just alignment, but a harmonious working relationship that moves things to the next level.

CDOs’ Skillsets (multiple responses permitted):

  • A deep understanding of technology 61%
  • Ability to execute digital strategies 53%
  • Ability to set a strategy and clear vision for the organization 52%
  • Strong communication/relationship-building skills 52%
  • Motivating global teams to drive toward achieving their vision 48%
  • Using the influence of his/her position to get cross-functional business and IT teams to work together 41%

The challenges CDOs face are cultural in nature, respondents agree. “It’s clear that a change-resistant culture is one of the biggest obstacles to making greater progress, and an area where CDOs could put more emphasis on,” the survey’s authors state. “Additionally, a lack of skills in emerging technologies is a major hurdle at a time when competition for the scarcest talent is as high as it’s ever been.”

Where CDOs Have Their Work Cut Out for Them

  • Achieving more collaboration across business units 38%
  • Providing an infusion of digital talent 38%
  • Gaining more funding/budgetary flexibility 36%
  • Deriving more meaningful insight from customer data 31%
  • Gaining more buy-in/support from top-level management” 30%
  • Developing ore partnerships to add capabilities 28%

Taking a glimpse at corporate expectations of the CDO role validates the survey findings. The roles of CDOs extend very deeply into business priorities, as seen in these recent online job postings:

State-level CDO: “Lead the digital vision and strategy for our organization. Build a digital experience that is accessible, easy to navigate and scalable for the state and its constituents. As a change agent, shape and cultivate a results-oriented, multi-disciplined and collaborative digital culture across the disciplines of content creation and management, user research and design. Manage a digital team comprised of digital and content strategists, UX designers, product managers, and more. Develop content strategies, recommend enhancements and implement best practices.”

Pharmaceutical company CDO: “Lead a team of approximately 80 internal resources, supported by third parties. Provide a competitive advantage in terms of operational efficiency, user experience, access to data and information, and flexibility to respond to changes in the business environment. Lead technology and digital strategic and operational planning to support achievement of business goals through the efficient delivery of end-to-end services and the delivery of innovative and scalable solutions. Participate in strategic and operational governance processes as a member of the senior management team, ensuring that technology plans are aligned with and support overall company.”

Marketing/advertising SVP, Group Strategy Director: “Help to develop and lead the digital vision for marquis technology brands, orchestrating digital and non-digital agencies within the team as they work together to create a world-class digital ecosystem. Drive the overall strategic vision for a global technology client, inclusive of orchestrating larger brand moments through to unearthing killer insights.”

Staffing and recruiting company CDO: “Direct the development and revisions to policies and procedures for the general operation of the enterprise digital strategy and related activities. Spearhead the development, communication and implementation of effective growth strategies and processes. Responsible for end-to-end strategy, design and implementation of the company’s digital roadmap. Create the bridge between data and the business operations. Maintain a balance between business and technology. Connect digital investments to enterprise KPIs to achieve positive digital transformation.”

[“source=forbes”]